Millennials and School Choice
A report from the Walton Family Foundation, "Millennials and Education."
The reality is that very few millennials are very familiar with the concept of “school choice” – only fourteen percent in our survey research said as much. ...
As a result, we then provided survey respondents with a basic description of the concept of “school choice”, describing it in this way:
“School choice means that a student can choose to attend a different school than the one for which they are zoned. Instead of being assigned a school based on one’s neighborhood, students would be able to apply to attend a different school in the district.”
After being provided with this definition, half say they believe school choice is positive, while only eight percent view it as being negative. (Another thirty percent say they are neutral on the idea after hearing the description.) Furthermore, once the concept is defined, some 43 percent of millennials say they think that parents and students in the district where they live do have the ability to choose what school their child attends.
We asked millennials “under what circumstances, if any, should a student be able to attend a different school than the one for which they are zoned or assigned based on their address Nearly half (49 percent) say that students should be able to attend a different school “if their parent thinks another school is better for them for any reason,” while only twelve percent say there is no circumstance that warrants allowing choice.
Adding together the respondents who chose “for any reason” with those who chose particular circumstances, we found 56 percent of millennials believing that a lack of certain academic programs (such as AP courses) warranted allowing school choice, and 58 percent felt that if a student is assigned to a failing school, they should be able to choose to attend elsewhere. Some 72 percent felt that a student should be able to attend a school for which they are not specifically zoned“if they have special needs or talents better suited to a different school.”
There is less agreement over what type of school a student should be able to attend “while being able to take some of that state or local funding to their new school.” Nearly half (49 percent) support letting the funding follow the student to another traditional public school, and 38 percent support this for public non-profit charter schools. However, only 28 percent believe the funding should be able to go to a private, non-religious school, and only 17 percent think funding should be able to go to a religiously-affiliated
We presented our millennial respondents with two debates over school choice to see where they stood once they heard both the arguments for and against the concept. Where supporters of school choice have the strongest argument is in making the case that school choice will open doors for kids who need it. By an overwhelming three-to-one margin, millennials side with those who support school choice who “say that every child should have access to a good school, and that means parents should have the ability to put their child in a quality school regardless of their zipcode or financial situation, especially if the school in their neighborhood does not set students up for good opportunities in the future,” while only 26 percent side with those who oppose school choice who “say that public money should stay in public schools, and that this just encourages districts to abandon struggling schools rather than working to fix them.